Seismic Training Efforts Help Haitians Help Themselves
Though almost all describe the situation in Haiti as a crisis, there are some small advances since the quake. In February 2010, the Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Communication, called MTPTC, as an interim measure authorized the use of five international building codes and standards while it studied the development of a local code. The five building codes and standards are the Canadian National Building Code, the American Concrete Institute Standard 318, the International Code Council's International Building Code, the Eurocode 8: Design of Structures for Earthquake Resistance and the Caribbean Uniform Building Code.
Last February, MTPTC hired an engineering consultant, SNC Lavalin, Montreal, to study the development of a Haitian code. The project is funded by the World Bank.
"I don't know if [the code] will ever come out," says Haitian native Pierre Fouché, a doctoral student at UB who both taught and practiced engineering in Haiti for four years.
The UniQ-UB partnership exists in large part thanks to Fouché, who graduated from UniQ in 2002.
Filiatrault says Haiti does not need to write its own code, especially since the U.S. Geological Survey completed the mapping of Haiti for seismic risk under a project at Purdue University. "[Using the maps] you can now treat Haiti like any place in the U.S.," he says. If Haiti wants a code in French, it can adopt the Canadian code or the Eurocode, he adds.
Meanwhile, for construction guidance on two- to three-story buildings, MTPTC has developed a simple manual with cartoon-like drawings. But implementation is spotty, says Filiatrault. Post-quake, one of the worst practices is the reuse of old rebar, which workers are bending to straighten. That practice robs the bars of their ductility, and they will likely snap under earthquake loads—much like a paper clip will snap if it is bent back and forth, says Filiatrault.
Osias also is frustrated by the difficulties moving forward. He is trying to take action. His pet project is the formation of a professional engineering association, which would ultimately license design professionals. Currently, "as long as you have an engineering degree, you can practice," says Fouche. "This is a weakness."
Bylaws are under development, with guidance from Filiatrault. But progress is slow, and there is no time frame for completion of the project. "It is even difficult for the six engineers involved in the project to find a time to meet," says Osias. The second meeting, to elect executive members, is planned for March 11.
Building a Business
S2H is trying to rectify some of the problems at a more grass-roots level. It has created a subsidiary, Shelter2Home-Haiti (S2H-H), based in Les Cayes, that is fabricating hurricane- and seismic-resistant houses and simple, single-story buildings based on its patented light-gauge steel framing system, engineered and constructed for seismic resistance.